Visit to Portugal
3) Affordable Luxury
Lisbon is the second-oldest capital city in Europe (after Athens) and has the history and architecture to prove it. At the same time, it’s one of the least expensive cities on the Continent – especially when coupled with the current strong dollar-to-euro exchange rate. This means you can take your time and explore Portugal without worrying about your daily budget. Portugal is also perfectly situated for jumping off to other Western European destinations.
4) A Five-Star Food Scene
Nestled along the Atlantic, you’re never far from the sea in Portugal. So it’s no wonder that the country has long been known as a seafood hub treasured by chefs the world over. (Acclaimed chef Thomas Keller reportedly only consumes Portuguese fish.) Setúbal is a must-stop for fresh fish and other Algarve towns such as Sagres, Lagos, Faro and Tavira are rivals. Equally impressive is the farm-fresh meat, sausage and cheese of Lisbon, Porto and Évora, which raises a unique type of black pig for the delicacy, jamón ibérico.
5) The Best Wine – Really!
If you think Portuguese wine is just about port, it’s time to think again. Portugal boasts the world’s first-ever wine region, the Douro Valley, and has an incredibly diverse collection of native grapes growing in vineyards from Beja to Estremoz to Marvão to Arraiolos. And Portuguese wines are no secret to the critics: Douro wines garnered three of the top four spots in the 2014 Wine Spectator Top 100 list.
6) Nature… In Europe!
Formed by volcanic activity, Portugal has no shortage of dramatic caves, mountains and hot springs – most completely unspoiled by hoards of tourists. Visit the Serra da Arrábida, a stunning UNESCO-protected mountain range, or the longest stretch of preserved coastline in Europe near the oceanside village of Vila Nova de Milfontes. Or bed down and dine as you trek the Rota Vicentina, a 200-mile hiking, biking and horse-riding trail on the southern coast between Alentejo and the Algarve.
Beginning in 2015, flights to Portugal’s Azores islands were deregulated, meaning that there are now more flights with more carriers, resulting in cheaper flights for travelers. Beckoning visitors, this autonomous archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic is known for its beautiful scenery and yearlong temperate climate. The largest island, Sâo Miguel, has a new highway, the Scut Azores, an engineering marvel that features 27 viaducts and makes getting around the island a breeze.
8) Feel Special
While Portugal is no secret to Europeans on holiday, it still represents an off-the-beaten path vacation for most North Americans. For the lucky folks who do choose to visit, this fact translates into a warm and friendly population that is happy to meet Americans. What more could you ask for?!